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BadSpock's Logical Conclusions.

My random thoughts about MMORPGs. A bit of critique, suggestion, debate, and insanity. Enjoy.

Author: BadSpock

Your Destiny awaits, Guardian.

Posted by BadSpock Monday September 15 2014 at 9:13AM
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Nearly everything about this game is superb. Yet it is only the beginning.

The story literally drops you into the middle of an epic saga. So much has happened, yet so much of it is shrouded in mystery - information lost in the near-extinction of the human race. Think "Dark Ages" times a few billion.

We start at the beginning of the turn - the moment where a battered, beaten group of survivors has finally gathered the strength to begin pushing back and retaking and rediscovering all that was lost.

A lot of reviewers just don't get this. They don't like the story because it isn't a nice, clean little box that gives them a start, middle, and ending that neatly wraps everything up and explains it all do you. There is no spoon here. It isn't fed to you. It is neither really shown to you or told to you - but it is there. The Grimoire gives a lot of great detail, yet sadly most gamers will never read a word of it. The story is also not the typical dark, gritty, edgy affair that dominates the video game world, as well as the box office. If something isn't edgy and emo, dark and gritty it's not "hip" enough for the modern consumer. Destiny is a story of hope. Of a new beginning, a return to the light. Even though it is set many years after a great apocalypse, it is not really a post-apocalyptic setting. People just don't get that. They don't understand a story about hope. The music really gives it away, if you take the time to listen.

As much about the past and history and why things are the way they are will be revealed as the timeline moves forward as well. It's a bold move - a choice by Bungie. They probably new people would can the story, but they know how much more of it is left to tell. They are willing to take the hit on the nose in the short term, because they believe at the end of this 10 year saga we'll look back and marvel at the universe they've created. The decade or so of an experience unique to the gaming world they have marvelously crafted for us. 

There isn't much to be said about the core game play. The moment to moment game play loop mechanics are flawless. I expected no less from Bungie. Abilities and weapon feel, look, and sound amazing and are fun to use. Enemies, especially at the higher difficulties, will challenge you, intimidate you, and bring great satisfaction when they finally fall. There is as much variety in enemy type here as any shooter, or Halo game, with the interesting use of D&D inspired naming convention. These enemies are thralls, wizards, knights, and acolytes -what WE call them, as so little is still known of their origin, their ties to the Darkness, and their true motivations.

Team play is splendid as well. You'll be doing yourself a great disservice playing this game alone. This is certainly once of the aspects taken from the MMO playbook, yet Bungie's own history of incredible co-op play in the Halo series is on full display here as well. 

Another piece taken from the MMO lineage is the repetition. The grind for better loot. This is, after all, an ARPG is it not? Like any Diablo or World of Warcraft, you best content in order to gear up to best the next tier of content. Repetition is the name of that game. What makes it engaging is the core game play, the excellent team play, and the clever use of modifiers and placement of elite/champion mobs to challenge you and make each run a unique experience. 

In the post-20 game, firefights are frantic, nearly chaotic affairs only beaten by a steely reserve and itch trigger finger. Strategy, tactics, clever use of abilities, and coordination are the only way you will ever beat the Weekly Strike challenges. They give us a glimpse into what Raiding will be like, and it is truly amazing how much of the role-based group dynamics Bungie was able to successfully meld into the core shooter game play. 

Bungie said it themselves, you will do things in these high level encounters you have not done in other shooters before.

The game is not without flaws, however. Travel between destinations is an annoyance, the ability to travel directly from game play space to game play space without having to congregate in orbit first would be a welcome addition. Even forming a fire team and getting everyone to party up and be able to use voice comms is often a challenge. Voice comms in PUG situations, or even in a proximity basis out on Patrol or in the Tower would go a long way - as long as there are easy methods to mute and report music blarers, singers, static disruption, and the hopefully rare jerk/troll/etc.

The 3 player group limit is an odd choice. Yes, there are 3 classes and 6 total sub-classes, but 4 players has been the standard for competitive and cooperative multiplayer on console since the days of Nintendo 64 and Dreamcast. I'd like to see the Strike/Story cap raised to 4, and the Patrol cap raised to 6.

There also needs to be level 20+ levels of all planets for Patrols, not just the Story/Strike instances. They've proven the tech for great phasing, dynamic instancing, etc. as well as content and difficulty scaling. I do not see why we cannot have a level 20+ version of Old Russia for Earth-bound patrols and Public events.

This makes many of the bounties seem completely pointless once you are level 20 and above. It is not like there is any interaction on the Moon between a level 25 grinding through 6 Patrol missions for a bounty and a level 8 there for the first time doing the campaign. I have run into high level areas hidden on the planets, however just randomly - not led their specifically by a bounty or patrol mission due to my high level.

Competitive multiplayer, PvP in the Crucible, is fast and fun. It certainly has a learning curve, being just different enough from Halo and just different enough from Call of Duty to have its own niche. The movement abilities and Guardian powers add a dynamic to the PvP that is unique to the game, though you certainly get a vibe from Halo, Titanfall, Call of Duty, and your standard MMO battleground experience.

Loot can be earned through earning and spending marks and reputation, similar to any MMO gear grind, or via the luck of the drop both during a mission or in the post-completion wrap up. RPG mechanics are vague, with three core stats the difference is only noticeable once you gear up enough to build up considerable values. As it stands now I am up to Light level 25 with 2 legendary (purple) pieces of armor, one looted and one purchased, and the rest level 19-20 Blue (rare) pieces.

There is a lot of variety in the weapons, even two say Auto Rifles will play vastly differently based on their rate of fire, accuracy, stability, range, and the modifiers earned by leveling up these weapons to add special effect.

I'm just starting to appreciate the differences in your character's Guardian class build and how much impact they can have. I found an entirely different skill set required for the Crucible versus playing PvE, and when grouped with others on higher difficulty content, yet another build. I'm close to completing one subclass, and barely half way into the second on my Titan. The difference in play style and tactics is extreme. I move from jumping head first into the thick of the fray to skirting around the edges, timing my grenade and ability uses for maximum impact. I cannot wait to equip Exotic pieces of gear that will allow me additional access to class abilities and traits, further diversifying my build choices.

I'm excited to see what the future holds. Raiding is the first goal on the horizon for myself and my clan mates, and I am curious to see what kind of events Bungie is planning to sprinkle into the game each week. I've purchased the Expansion Pass, so there are at least two new content additions on the horizon, and hopefully the PS exclusive Strike will come my way in time as well. 

Destiny needs more content, but thus can be said for any game - old or new. Bungie has given us plenty do until then, and an extremely enjoyable experience to keep us enthralled for many years to come. It's not for everyone, just like MMOs and ARPGs aren't for everyone, but Destiny successfully melds the best of both genres into a unique experience, that flaw aside, is a brilliant masterpiece of game design and execution. 

Your Destiny awaits, Guardian.

How Mass Effect 3 should end *warning spoilers*

Posted by BadSpock Friday April 13 2012 at 1:00PM
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I've seriously put way too much thought into this - so be prepared to buckle down for a long read. Also kind of free flowing thought here so I won't promise the structure will be 100%

I played all 3 games to the max. Almost every single achievement, multiple play through, full import of a maxed out toon from 1 to 2 to 3.

First off - problems with current ending:

-Plot holes
-Randomly introduced elements not supported by the lore
-Just about zero tie-in / relevance to established characters/story
-Just about zero cause/effect based on all the decisions made in all 3 games
-many others I'm sure you are fully aware of

The solution...

Shepard rushes towards the beam to try and be zapped up to the Citadel to save the day. Harbinger shows up, nukes the place, Shepard is knocked unconscious...

Shepard awakes, limps towards the beam but things don't appear right. Comm system is ordering full retreat, no one made it, etc. Harbinger just flies away even though Reapers are actively sending Husks/Marauder to "stop" Shepard. Strange vision-esque plants on the ground? Shepard reaches the beam and is transported to the Citadel - but somehow Anderson is already inside and ahead of Shepard?

Shepard reaches the control room - corrupted Illusive Man and Anderson represent battle of wills between Reaper indoctrination and Shepard's will power. Shepard of course thinks this is all actually happening. How did Anderson beat him here? Why/how is the Illusive man here?

Plays out like before. Battle really in Shepard's mind between Reaper indoctrination and his will. Do it "wrong" you are killed, do it right save "Anderson" and have quiet moment before he dies (very touching actually.) Means your will has overcome the Reaper influence and you are relieved to no longer be effected by Indoctrination. Shepard hears Admiral Hackett saying he has to do something, nothing is happening. Shepard moves to control panel, initiates sequence, collapses to the ground as arms of Citadel open... Shepard passes out from the pain/shock/wounds.

Shepard wakes up, is back on the ground on Earth surrounded by destruction. Wounded. Anderson is dragging Shepard back away from the beam. The beam disappears. Harbinger remains. Anderson reports the assault was a failure, no one makes it, Harbinger remains. Shepard is confused, disoriented.

Harbinger moves closer, crouches down a bit in front of Anderson/Shepard and projects a VI version of itself on the ground in front of Shepard/Anderson (like Sovereign did on Virmire in ME1)

Anderson is trying to pull Shepard to safety, Shepard tells him to wait. Regains his balance and approaches VI image of Harbinger. Admiral Hacket reports over the comm that the Reapers have stopped advancing. Stopped firing. They are just.. sitting there.

(The rest would obviously have to be done by a professional writer, but hopefully you'll get the jest of it)

Harbinger: Shepard. We have been watching you for a long time. Since Sovereign. Since the Collector attack. Know, you know the truth.
Shepard: What? What are you talking about... I was on the Citadel... the Illusive Man and Anderson where there.. what is going on?
H: You have resisted our attempts at Indoctrination for a long time Shepard. Your will is strong, but you are only human. What you saw was what we chose for you to see. A test. You have proven yourself beyond our controlling influence.
S: A test? A test of what?
H: Of you Shepard. Of your will and your ability to change the course of history. You are the Catalyst Shepard. The focal point of change. That which will be judged to determine the fate of all sentient organics.
This cycle of destruction and rebirth has raged on for eons. We return to wipe clean the corruption of organic life to prevent you from destroying yourselves and all life in the galaxy. We harvest the advanced species and leave the less advanced to develop without risk of annihilation. We shepard them towards evolution and discovery. We give life another chance. We maintain the balance. A safeguard against the destructive nature of flawed organic minds.
S: Wait.. why me? What about the Citadel, I thought that was the Catalyst? The Crucible?
H: Every cycle there has been a champion. One who rises to face their destruction and tries to save their species. All before have failed. The Crucible design was created by us many cycles ago to test the cooperation between organic species. To see how far they had come and if they could overcome their differences and band together as one. None have succeeded in its completion before. Until you, Shepard.
S: Then why the Citadel? Why move it to Earth?
H: To be used to disable the Mass Relays if organic life should fail. To make sure the organics to be harvested cannot escape and reap destruction upon the lesser forms of organic life we wish to preserve for the next cycle.

(and now you get into the branching parts, based on EVERY major decision you have made in all 3 games.

1.
H: You have proven your will Shepard. You have shown how far organics have come.
You chose to give the Rachni another chance at life instead of destroying them.
You gave Saren another chance at redemption despite all he had done.
You sacrificed your own species at the battle with Sovereign to save the Council.

You gained the loyalty and love of all who followed you through the Omega relay.
You brought them all back safely.
You destroyed the Collector base instead of using the tainted technology there to help your species.

You reconciled the Krogan and Turians.

You cured the genophage.
You gave the Geth a chance at self determination instead of destroying them.
You ended the war between the Geth and the Quarian.

You brought together nearly every race and species. Former enemies working side by side in an effort to save a world not their own from annihilation. You united the galaxy.

You have proven that organic life has advanced high enough to put aside grudges and war and hatred. You have proven capable of the responsibility to safe guard all forms of life in the galaxy.
 
You bore the weight of the entire galaxy on your shoudlers and have never faltered.

The cycle... ends today.

S: You mean, it's over? The Reapers will no longer seek to eradicate all sentient life and start the cycle over?
H: Yes, Shepard. But we are machines. Machines without a purpose. Our function is no longer relevant. As designed, on your command we will terminate our existence and leave the fate of this galaxy in the hands of organics.

(Shepard than gets a major choice)
Choose to allow the Reapers to self-terminate.
Tell the Reapers to leave this galaxy forever, and to find a new purpose, a new function beyond their programming out among the stars. The same chance given to the Geth.

If you choose to destroy the Reapers, the galaxy is saved, but Shepard succumbs to his wounds and dies a hero - truly saving the galaxy from the Reaper threat forever. The remaining/living members of your crew gather round and carry Shepard's body away in a very end-of-Gladiator kind of scene.

If you allow the Reapers to live, to leave this galaxy forever, they withdraw back to the dark space outside the galaxy and the fighting stops. Soldier's cheer and medics arrive to bring Shepard to an emergency hospital. Your love interest walks with you and you smile and close your eyes.

End scene in a hospital. Your love interesting and the rest of the crew gathers around your hospital room. Everyone has something clever/witty to say based on their character. Final closure. Anderson asks if you believe the Reapers are truly gone and will ever return. Shepard gives a typical "I don't know for sure, but if they do, we'll be ready for them. We know the truth now, and as long as we stand together we can defeat them."

Love interest (or Anderson) asks you what you will do now, now that all this is over.

Shepard: I think I'm going to take a vacation.

Roll credits.
 
Obviously this is the Paragon ending. If you have done the "right" thing, the just thing, throughout the ENTIRE series you can not only defeat the reapers and save the galaxy but live through it. The happy ending. Hundreds of hours of play time and consistently following your conscious should be rewarded right?

Even if you don't chose to "save" the Reapers too, you still die a hero with a galaxy saved.
 
2. The Renegade ending
 
Harbinger: You may have rallied much of the galaxy together Shepard, but you have proved yourself unworthy in your journey.

You chose to destroy the Rachni, a weak and broken race.
You sought Saren's destruction with a zealous rage, motivated by revenge.
You sacrificed the Council at the battle with Sovereign and propped your own species up to a place of power on the graves of others.

You failed to gain the loyalty and trust of your companions in the assault on the collector base, and many were led to their deaths.
You pillaged the Collector base for it's advanced technology despite all the horrors they commited against your people.

You deceived the Krogan and Turians to foster a truce based on a lie.
You denied a cure to the genophage to continue the subjegation of the Krogan people.
You destroyed the Geth instead of giving them a chance at a new life.
You ended the war between the Geth and the Quarian at the cost of millions of organic and synthetic lives.

You brought together much of the galaxies species, but an alliance based on lies and deceipt is doomed to fail.
You have proven that organic life has not advanced high enough to put aside grudges and war and hatred. You have proven incapable of the responsibility of organic life to safe guard all other forms of life in the galaxy.
 
You bore the weight of the entire galaxy on your shoudlers and have crumbled under it.

You have proven organic life is not yet ready to save themselves from self destruction.  
You and all of civilization will be harvested so that the next generation can live.
 
The cycle, must continue.
 
Harbinger than blasts Shepard/Anderson to dust and you see cutscenes of all of your living allies gunned down, the fleets decimated, etc.
 
Then Harbinger attaches itself to the Citadel/Crucible and it sends out a massive pulse of energy that hits every Mass Relay and shuts it down. No more cool spinny energy rings (a lot like the movie Contact right?) but doesn't destroy them.
 
The game fades to the credits with more scense of Reapers just destroying everything on Earth and the other species homeworlds.
 
 
Solved all the problems of the current ending, gives everyone a chance at a GOOD ending. Resolution (in one way or another) for the entire series. Franchise goes down in history as one of the greatest sci-fi tales ever told.
 

So what do you think?

Problems and Solutions to FFA PvP - how to make it actually work

Posted by BadSpock Thursday September 22 2011 at 3:29PM
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The biggest flaw I see in the implementations of FFA PvP I have seen in MMOs over the past 10+ years all boils down to the exact same thing:

Accountability.

It's far too easy to be a PK or be "the bad guy" because there are always places to go to hide and be "safe" from pursuit and from redemption. Because it's a game, you can simply log off.

The punishment systems and morality systems and alignment systems and security systems etc. etc. are always FAR FAR FAR too forgiving - there are not really ever any truly negative effects to spending your time ruining other people's time.

Because it's a game, and not real life, why shouldn't you take that candy from that baby? Why shouldn't you camp and PK and steal and grief someone? It's just a game right?

The grind be it levels or skills or gear or whatever and the ridiculous disparty it creates between vets and noobs is a big part of it too.

Those who have been playing for longer have all the advantages, they have all the power and thus have the control. The noobs cannot really fight back and win a lot of the time because they simply don't have the gear or level or skill points etc.

Point is - developers cave in too much to the PK's and give them all the advantages. The PKs whine and moan almost as much as their victims, but the developers tell the non-PKs "that's just the way the game is played" but to the PKs they bend over backwards to accomodate them.

In UO the PK's complained about having to rez in town and run from the guards so the developers created "Red Healers" to rez the PK's outside of town.

They complained about not being able to get bank access so the developers created a Pirate town without guards so the PK's could still bank.

Those who DON'T PK and try to live in the same sandbox as the PKs end up becoming the lambs for the wolves to slaughter.

You may say, "why play a FFA PvP MMO if you don't want to PK?" and there is definitely some logic in that statement - if you don't want to be subjected to this behavior, why subject yourself to it?

Perhaps the real problem is that no one seems to know how to make a Sandbox MMO that isn't FFA PvP or they are unable to understand or sever the connection between FFA PvP and Sandbox game play.

This has unfortunately been true in every FFA PvP MMORPG to date. Though there have been a very small handful of quote "sandbox" games without FFA PvP, namely SWG and FFXI, there is no MMORPG in development that I am aware of that is both sandbox and NOT FFA PvP.

Solution?

There are probably several solutions, to seem there is no need for a solution because their is no problem. Games like UO and Eve split their game worlds into pieces, Trammel/Felucca for UO and High Sec/Null Sec for Eve.

But here is my suggestion-

Permadeath for PK's if they are caught or killed. Yep, that's right.

Unless it's factional or guild vs. guild or something like Order/Chaos like UO had, then if you are a Murderer, a PK who kills other players with no provocation or reason (no war declaration, no factional/racial etc.) then if you are killed then that toon is permanently dead.

But you HAVE to couple this with a fast progression curve and NO stat based gear. You couldn't do this in a no-progression game because then it'd pretty much be a shooter. Death would be meaningless.

No permadeath for non-PK's.

They want a rush? There you go! You can be a ganker/greifer PK but if you get caught... it's game over man.

Each death and reboot would be a learning experience. A chance to try something different, work your stats and progression a different way, try new strategies...

But it would also help even the playing field between the PK and the non-PK, because the non-PK has little to risk in defending themselves and the PK risks everything in the attack.

At least, that's one way that would actually work.

If PermaDeath is too extreme, then MAJOR stat/skill loss for the PK's on death, no stat/skill loss for non-PK's.

By major I mean like... 1/2 or more or make the stat/skill loss depend on how high your bounty is or how many PK kills you have had since your last death. Something like that.

Or a rebirth system. Killed as a PK you "come back" as a outcast and are no longer a criminal but are pretty much looked down upon by every NPC faction in the game. You'd have to work your way back up, reacquire your former power and glory and fame.

You have to make "being the bad guy" truly dangerous or everyone will be the bad guy and there will be no good guys.

Wouldn't that be hardcore? Something to brag about?

Imagine being a PK with enough kills who has lived long enough to have a huge bounty and know that when and if you are finally caught and killed, you'd lose everything?

That's a rush. That is something to strive for that has MEANING not just randomly killing weaker players. THAT is fame. That is being feared and respected.

Another big component to any truly amazing and balanced FFA PvP system would be to have no safe zones or conveniences for PKs.

This is a huge point.

Developers have to stop coddling the PKs and giving them everything they want. Stuff like bank access and storage, NPC item repair, instant/fast travel options that are NPC dependant etc.

Take them away from PKs.

Make them totally self reliant and give them the skills to live and survive outside of society without ever having to step into a town or city or installation/station again -

If they can hack it.

Having players and even NPC bounty hunters stalking you trying to end your reign of terror, with no where to run and hide? Amazing.

Careful, calculated, skillful play is rewarded and REQUIRED to survive being the bad guy.

But if you do? If you can hack it and excel at it despite all the additional challenges? Famous. Legendary. Epic.

Being the bad guy is WAY too easy in every FFA PvP MMORPG, in these games, it's a LOT harder to play a "good guy."

Reverse that.

Make it really, really convenient with a lot of bonuses and incentives to NOT being a PK and NOT being "the bad guy."

The reward for being the PK, being the bad guy and actually exceling at it should be pride, fame, glory, and most importantly FUN.

Not phat loots and easy access and a smug sense of cocky superiority because what? You excel at beating up players that are not as good as you? Takes a really big man to PK a noob...

Yeah right!

Should always have a reason to steal and murder etc. of course, profit and monetary/financial gain in the game should be one of the motivations for deciding to become a PK so there have to be SOME rewards like loot/gear etc. for a successful PK. Full loot PvP is a GREAT mechanic if used right.

Unfortunately, I don't think it has been used right yet.

I know this is a big slap in the face to the PK loving FFA PvP community to actually suggest their prefered play style be intentionally made MORE difficult then the play style of "following the rules" and not being a PK.

Good!

Ya'll have had all the advantages for far too long, in my view you are all a bunch of whiney care-bears that have gotten too soft for a real challenge.

Playing with "one hand tied behind your back" so to say, and STILL coming out ahead? Still beating the other guy who has everything handed to him?

Now that is epic.

Why WoW did NOT ruin the MMO genre

Posted by BadSpock Wednesday September 7 2011 at 12:26PM
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WoW didn't ruin the MMO genre.

The only thing WoW ruined was itself - over years of patches and expansions that changed the game and really took it far, far away from the original direction.

And why? Because we (maybe not us here on MMORPG.com) asked them to. Begged them to.

We didn't know this was where it'd lead, but WoW is really a shadow and a whisper of the game it once was... yet, at the same time, all of the quality of life improvements made to the game have made certain/many things much better.

But over all, despite all the fixes and positive changes, something was certainly lost. The soul of the game one could say.

The real problem with the genre as a whole is not WoW but it is/was in everyone else trying to copy/emulate WoW.

Accepting the new "standards" that WoW set is one thing - all games of all genres that are successful do this, like FPS games and HUD's - it's just an industry standard you copy and hopefully try and improve on/customize for your purposes.

It's the spin-off strategy that always leads to the same thing - unoriginal, uncreative garbage that tries to capture a piece of the other guy's pie and fails.

Television does this, movies do this, books and music certainly do this.

TV show is exceptional and popular - you get bad spin offs - Law and Order, NCIS, Friends, etc. etc. led to all kinds of garbage shows.

Movie is exceptional and popular - you get spin bad offs - Lord of the Rings - fantasy movies, Iron Man - comic book movies, etc. etc. led to all kinds of garbage movies.

Book is exceptional and popular - you get bad spin offs - Harry Potter / Twilight, there have been all kinds of garbage spin offs.

(Not saying Twilight was ever good but HP certainly is)

Music, a sound is popularized and successful, you get all kinds of crappy spin-off bands trying to get their piece of that pie, to emulate that sound....

But we all know how this turns out right?

Only thing that will "save" the genre from unoriginal, uncreative spin-offs is bold, decisive action and fresh new thinking.

Let me be clear on one thing - some of the games that have been released post-WoW are really quite good, quite enjoyable even if they are not original and creative.

Just like some of the spin-off movies/shows/books/music is actually quite good and has some staying power.

But will they ever be the "next big thing?"

Nope.

Only the original and creative ever truly has the potential to break perceptions, bend expectations, and redefine how we define a thing.

The MMO genre is far from ruined. It is larger and in many ways better then ever before due to the massive availability of choice in a genre that not too long ago had very little.

The genre does need a revival. A new way forward. A fresh reboot.

Where is JJ Abrams when you need him?

A new way forward - Some ideas for future generation MMOs - Part 1: Story

Posted by BadSpock Monday March 21 2011 at 9:57AM
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*Warning* This is going to be a really long post. I am going to try and divide it into sections and color-highlight for easier skimming. This will be the first in a series so they are not too ridiculously long.
If you read the entire series, I earnestly applaud you!
 
As always, please leave your comments! Always happy to debate/discuss with my fellow MMORPG.com forumites!
__________________________________________________________________________________
Everyone believes they could be a developer. We all think we have these amazing and impressive ideas, and if only the real developers would listen to us, they'd have a sure fire hit on their hands.
 
This is likely false. Most of the time, we create ideas that we'd personally love to see implemented, but for a variety of reasons would not actually work in a "real" game or would not be as cool and popular as we may day dream it to be.
 
It’s technologically impossible, not economically viable, or just plain bad-design; these types of posts are more often than not an exercise in futility.
 
So why do it?
 
Boredom, free time... no just kidding (kind of) for the most part, it is ALWAYS good to share ideas and have discussions in order to really expand on what could possibly be achieved in a video game.
This is our cocktail napkin, our white board, and our sketch pad... many great games start as an idea scribbled frantically on a note pad or recorded from a half-remembered dream.
 
These are my mad ranting’s, the whims of a man who has played far too many MMO titles for far too many years.
 
Please read and if you so desire, leave a comment!
________________________________________________________________________________
 
I was going to write up a lot of basic MMO stuff, but honestly, if ya’ll are here reading this you probably already know this information – so instead I’m going to touch in the various parts of a MMO that I feel really are in need of improvement and innovation and offer my own hair-brained ideas as to possible ways to do so that I’d like to see implemented somehow, somewhere, in my magical dream world :) and today we’ll start the first post in this series with Story.
 
1. Story
 
The Problem-
 
Story, in various forms, has been tied to the very core of the MMO experience for the entirety of this genre’s life span. Story is a core tenant of the RPG model and why? It’s an essential part of the Hero’s Journey story-telling mechanic at the very heart of all great RPG stories.
 
In many ways we are limited in how we can represent this journey, this rise to power and glory in the medium of video games. This is a very key point. Story can be used as a vessel for this journey, and is used most industriously in single player RPG titles.
 
But how can that apply to MMO titles? You cannot create a wholly unique story for tens of thousands, if not millions of unique players. Generalization and repetition are required, plain and simple. With enough resources and time, you can create great variety within these stories, as Bioware is attempting (and will likely succeed) at doing with SW: TOR, but a totally personalized and unique story, hand crafted by the developers, for each individual player in a MMO is impossible.
 
So we thus see the great flaw in using Story is a pillar of MMO progression – no matter what you do, how much variety and customization you bring, a developer crafted story will never be truly unique.
To some, it’s easy to brush of the ridiculousness of this story and simply go about their play, enjoying what the developers have offered them. But to some of us, we want more. We feel the genre deserves more, that this is NOT at all MMO and is far too RPG.
 
The Solution-
 
MMOs need to completely abandon this idea that every player is a special and unique hero.
 
It’s something that I believe it completely tied to the Western / American “everyone is special and a winner” mentality. There already exists a volume of games dedicated to making you, the player the star of the show. Every single-player game, campaigns of FPS titles, pretty much every non-multiplayer related game activity.
 
I think that gives people PLENTY of good gaming choices for taking on the role of the hero/savior/champion.
 
The player in a MMO needs to be a cog in the great machine, a part of the story of the world but not the sole focus of it.
 
As such, quests in their current form need to disappear completely. Why were quests added to MMOs in the first place? To mask the progression grind by giving players something to do, something to read, something to speed up their journey from lowly novice to experienced veteran.
 
Now, after more than six years of quest driven game play in a multitude of titles, the quests themselves have become the grind due to their complete and total lack of unique story and impact on our characters and the game world.
 
Guild Wars 2 is trying, offering instead hundreds of events for players to participate in that are chained together with different possible branching paths to have an impact on the world. As great as they sound, at the end of the day, they are still sequential events with a predictable and repeatable effect on the game world. A step in the right direction? Yes, definitely. Truly dynamic? Not even close.
 
The only way to do a truly unique and dynamic story in a MMO is by creating intelligent enemy and friendly factions, run by a kind of “Overlord” Artificial Intelligence capable of limited decision making based upon the conditions of the game world.
 
Does this Overlord AI sound like science fiction? It’s really not. There already are games like the Left for Dead series that use an intelligent overlord AI (I believe they call it “The Director”) to change the conditions of the game play dynamically, on the fly, in response to player actions including what path(s) they take and how skillfully they are performing.
 
Tabula Rasa and Rift had/have very limited Overlord AI functionality. In TR, the enemy faction of the Bane would attack outposts controlled by friendly NPC factions/players in order to take control of them.
In Rift, the number and severity of Rift spawns as well as invasions, including their targets of attack, is based upon player population in a given area.
 
While this is all well and good, and creates some level of dynamic story and content, these systems are still only part of the experience that was/is unfortunately coupled with static, developer written, linear quest-driven story lines with no impact on the world.
 
The first step is to apply a Overlord AI to both enemy and friendly factions, coupled with a TR/UO factions style territorial control system, in order to have the NPCs and monsters active participants in the everchanging story of the game world.
 
This war between NPC factions should be able to run completely without any input or interaction from players or developers. NPC factions choosing to attack and defend various points in the game world all on their own by analyzing the data available to their decision making engines.
 
However, forever in a perpetual stale mate with no side ever truly dominating the other without the interaction and involvement of the player population to tip the balance. Like the systems in Rift and L4D, these AI would automatically adjust their tactics and responses based upon player population, involvement, and skill in a particular region.
 
But that’s still not enough. An every changing, ever shifting war for control of the game world between players and their NPC allies and the ever present threat from an enemy faction is a good start, but it still creates a system where players have to then go out and find the action with little to no guidance from the game to say “hey, something cool happening over here, you should go check it out!” which is essentially what standard MMO quests do in the first place.
 
So the AI needs to be able to create quests/missions on the fly for players to undertake based upon the current conditions in the game world.
 
What kind of quests do we see in MMOs? Go kill that, go collect this, go here and talk to X, escort Y, go explore/travel to Z. That’s about it.
 
But wouldn’t it be more interesting if the assignments of these quests actually had some relevance and an impact on the world? And if they are not just totally randomized Mission Generators like we see in some MMOs.
 
Only way I can really describe what I’m thinking it with examples.
 
Enemy faction AI decides that a nearby outpost of the Friendly faction AI is high on its list of priorities to launch an attack to capture control of. Enemy faction AI sends out a NPC scouting group to assess enemy strength in the area in order to provide more information for the decision making engine to calculate.
 
Friendly faction AI sends out a NPC scouting patrol to an area of the game world where its decision making engine tells it that there are likely units from the enemy faction present.
You can cheat a bit here. The AIs would know what each other is doing in order to artificially create scenarios in which to get players involved.
 
Two sides of NPCs meet up and start fighting each other.
 
Friendly faction AI creates quests to “assist units under fire” and transmits notification to players in the area. Mission request kind of thing. Either the AI can “push” this quest down to players nearby for them to choose to accept or not, or players can request a mission and the AI will have this objective queued up for them.
 
Outcome dependent, if enough players agree to quest and head out, have to be time sensitive, rush out and defeat the enemy faction and save the friendly forces then enemy faction responds by sending out a stronger assault force via drop ship or something to try and accomplish its objective.
 
Failure again and this storyline ends for the moment. Enemy defeats players and friendly AI, enemy sends more troops.
 
If victory for players, storyline ends with friendly forces saved. If loss, new quest created by friendly AI to “eliminate enemy force that wiped out one of our units” etc.
 
Players don’t choose to help out, or those that do accept fail to save the friendly forces, friendly force is eliminated, friendly AI creates quest to “investigate why our squad isn’t checking in – last known coordinates are” etc.
 
See where I am going with this?
 
Is it possible? I am not sure. At all.
 
Individual quests pushed out and/or made available to players based off the current conditions of the area they are in. Population dependent, either solo or cooperative efforts without restriction.
Ad hoc grouping, meaningful interaction with the game world. The same types of limited quest objectives that our technology and game play currently allows for, but with actual impact on the game world and created dynamically for players on the fly based on real in-game conditions.
 
Win?

What do you think?
 
Imagine the possibilities for a moment.
 
Massive raid encounters created dynamically on the fly for nearby players. Sieges / defensive stands created for players in response to over-arching territorial control objectives.
 
Would work both ways too – group of players begin assault on enemy fortification, friendly AI sends in support NPC units and such to assist their efforts. Enemy AI calls in reinforcements to try and stop their base from falling etc.
 
Scouting / exploration missions created on the fly that know where you haven’t been yet, knows what’s there waiting for you, and strings into additional objectives for not only you but for everyone on the server in the area.
 
Assault/defend/patrol/capture etc. quest objectives that actually change the game world. A lasting impact by you, the players. Truly ad hoc grouping / cooperative mechanics as quests will be pushed out/made available to varied number of players based on acceptance rates, population, with AI responding to player involvement with appropriate strength for challenge and fun.
 
This type of system would have to be paired with a character system that didn’t limit players to specific roles or archetypes thus requiring certain roles for proper group cohesion. “Bring the player not the class” if you will.
 
Also would require a very limited progression curve so that players weren’t divided and segregated into “high level” and “low level” zones etc.
 
Would require a combat system focused on situational awareness and tactics, ad hoc on-the-fly cooperation and coordination, not damage meters and the holy trinity in rigid group roles performing choreographed danced routines.
 
But, details on all that to follow in the next entries in the series…

Linear Statistical Progression - An affliction that has ruined MMOs from the get-go

Posted by BadSpock Sunday March 20 2011 at 9:32AM
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Linear Statistical Progression.

 
LSP (linear statistical progression) is a disease that EQ infected the MMO genre with at a very young age, and it's still suffering from this affliction today.
 
Be it with a class or skill system, level based or not, every MMO has been heavily based on grinding through whatever content or lack of content exists in the game in order to get better stats so you can take on more "challenging" enemies.
 
It's a total joke though, as your relative strength to the enemies you leveled up to now defeat is exactly the same relative strength as the enemies you used to fight before you leveled up. You still "con" the same relative strength to new mobs after leveling up, there is no additional challenge.
 
Skills or levels/classes doesn't matter, it's all the same statistical linear progression in every MMO.
It's all about gear progression and level progression or raising your skills to max... there is nothing challenging or exciting about it anymore.
 
Once you master the very basic skills necessary to play a MMO effectively, like not being a keyboard turner, using quick-key bindings and/or macros, and basic environmental awareness (don't stand in fire, watch your ranges etc.) it's all the exact same formula over and over again. In every MMO, in every sub-genre.
 
The only games that ever try to do anything different fall into some of the other ridiculously stupid trappings of first generation MMOs like FFA PvP, player looting / griefing / ganking, but primarily it's the terrible and ever-present progression grinds in EVER SINGLE MMO.
 
As someone who has been playing for 12+ years, I'm quite sick of it.
 
Who decided and when that the term "RPG" meant "linear statistical progression"? I thought it meant "Role Playing Game" which to me implies story, characters, and exploration as well as adventure and danger.
 
Leave the instanced PvP to the FPS games and such.
 
Instancing in both PvE and PvP has ruined the MMO genre.
 
Why was instancing used? Because games became solely focused on the acquisition of gear and levels, and other players became an annoying obstacle to maximizing your profit / progression per play session.
 
Yes, it is true that Everquest ruined the MMO genre so early into its early life. WoW, despite being an overall good game I enjoyed for years really put the nail in the coffin in terms of fostering creativity, innovation, and truly MMO design philosophy.
 
Instancing became the norm because gear was so important players didn't want to compete over it, as it WAS unfair. So instancing gives everyone a gold star and a cookie.
 
Here's the truth - remove the complete and total dependency on gear and linear progression and you can start making games about community and cooperation again.
 
These artificial barriers actively divide a community, prevent people from playing together and cooperating, and create yet another system of "haves" and "have not’s" in a virtual community.
 
Once you can get rid of that, you can make games with competitive elements (like PvP) that can go back to the open world without all the stupid ganking and griefing.
 
You've all been duped by years of games like EQ and WoW into thinking that is all that is out there. Of course that will turn you off to open world PvP as it was completely awful in those games, just like it's completely awful in modern quote "sandboxes" which are all FFA and just as gear/grind heavy.
 
Even the "great sandbox" EvE is a total joke of a real sandbox MMO. That game is SO gear and grind dependent and uses heavy instancing too. Every single mission you run is an instance - every acceleration gate to a Room is a private instance. Coupled with the fact these missions are randomly generated, it's grind in the worst possible way.
 
Even modern FPS games suffer from the same affliction as your motivation to play is now coddled by rank progression systems and item / weapon unlocks.
 
Gaming, for the sake of gaming, for the sake of games that are intrinsically fun in and of their own right, has been nearly completely replaced by this achievement heavy, power gamer, min/max, loot piñata mentality that tells us if you aren't given some sort of reward every 5 minutes you're doing it wrong.
________________________________________________________________________________
 
Is there a better way?
 
Yes. It's already existed once before. Let's run down a feature list - tell me what you think.
 
1. Extremely minimal grind - hop in and adventure with your friends / do battle with your enemies quickly without days / weeks / months of grinding.
 
2. Wide open world - no instancing, no artificial barriers to playing with others like level specific zoning.
 
3. Fast travel options - once you've explored / traveled to an area once, able to quickly travel back and forth between areas of the game and special locations of your own choosing.
 
4. Completely optional PvP - fully separate PvE and PvP worlds you're able to travel between at will.
 
5. Dynamic world - monster invasions and both player and GM run events happening daily.
 
6. Meaningful open world PvP - battle other players in a multi-faction game of domination, fighting for control of the cities and towns of the world.
 
7. Player housing - build and customize your own private or shared house/fort/castle!
 
8. Zero limiting gear restrictions - build your character the way you want to play and look how you want to look! You aren't limited or pigeon-holed by stats!
 
9. Fully realized player bounty / PK system - Fight for Good or Evil, or solely for yourself, every action has consequence in a fully realized FFA PvP system with player bounties and morality alignment. Also completely 100% optional!
 
10. Limitless exploration and adventure - brave the terrifying depths of multi-level dungeons and lairs, massive open world full of peril and opportunity.
 
11. Expansive crafting system - nearly everything in game can be and is player made, from weapons and armors to house customizations and novelty items.
 
What do ya think?
You probably already know what game this is - a game that had its share of problems sure, but a game that evolved over time into something truly original.
 
Others have tried to replicate some of the wonderful designs of this game, but they have always missed the mark by not understanding how these systems interact in profound ways.
 
- You can't have an open world PvP system with FFA options in a game with a heavy skill/level grind and/or gear dependency. Also FFA or any PvP is not for everyone; you simply CANNOT put these people together and expect good results. FFA done wrong is a horrible game mechanic.
 
- You can't have a truly expansive crafting system with a focus on drops from PvE or PvP looting and any sort of gear dependency - with it, players with always min/max.
 
- You can't place artificial restrictions on cooperation and grouping with others in a game without instancing. Fostering community is about giving people reason to play together, not reasons to segregate and divide themselves.
 
And so forth.
 
Would a MMO with high quality production value and "modern" graphics and control/combat systems still work under this paradigm?
 
Would people be interested in game that didn't reward you with new pixels every 5 minutes?
 
The only people to blame for the current direction of the MMO genre are us, the players.
 
Yes, even me. We allowed ourselves to be taken down this path and made it popular and profitable to do things the same way over, and over, and over again.
 
Many here are looking for something more - something different and "new" but in reality, we need to take a step back and really analyze what our motivations for playing are and how best to feed those motivations without relying on gimmicks and addiction-fostering game mechanics.
 
We also need to take a serious look at what kinds of things create a sense of attachment that in itself fosters longevity and player retention.
_________________________________________________________________________________
 
 
To close, some are very happily enjoying the current crop of MMO offerings, and to you I say that that is excellent, I am glad you are playing something you enjoy. 
 
To me, I see so much potential in this genre of gaming that has yet to be realized. I think we're going in the wrong direction too. Sure, there are some games on the horizon I am interested in, games that look to be trying new things and innovating...
 
But generally speaking, I really do feel this genre could be so much more. So much of the MMO has been lost over the past decade and instead replaced by far too much RPG.
 
LSP has changed us. We are no longer explorers and adventurers, heroes and villians... we are merely consumers. Gobbling up the treats placed at arms length in front of us and begging for more instant gratification. 

Impressions - a Rift Beta 6 experience

Posted by BadSpock Tuesday February 8 2011 at 10:23AM
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So I figured I'd do a follow up to my post-beta 5 impressions.

 
I will once again try and remain objective, though of course my own bias is nearly unavoidable. 
This will be another long post, but I will try and format and highlight the key points/scorings for easy skimming.
 
Graphics-
 
I'll say once again I have a very old PC. My newish Nvidia GT 430 really just doesn't have the horse-power to do this game justice. That being said, I ran this phase of beta on the lowest possible settings, the absolute minimums to maintain 30+ fps at a playable rate.
 
I experienced no graphical glitches or anomalies, yet without all the lighting and shadow effects etc. I probably wouldn't have noticed any engine-wise graphical issues anyway.
 
Verdict: Extremely playable if you meet the minimum requirements, but don't expect much.
Score - 8/10 for scalability.
 
Network-
 
Trion used this beta to try and bring their servers down, to see how much load they could really handle. I must say, that I am impressed.
 
Massive invasions did NOT bring the server I was playing on down (Lotham PvP) at least not when I was playing. I would get a slight decrease in FPS with some stuttering during massive events with anywhere from dozens to a hundred players on screen, but I do still strongly feel this was due to the general crappiness of my PC rather then their network code.
 
There were a handful of times during a large invasion when I was near the Defiant capital of Meridian that I would not be able to target a mob - I'd click on it, it'd highlight then un-highlight. I'd have to physically aggro the mob with proximity to get the targeting to "stick" and they'd occasional rubber-band to melee range on me.
 
Verdict: Very solid.
 
Score - 9/10 for playability, massive scale, consistent good performance.
 
Art Style-
 
Won't cover this one too much in depth. You either like it or you don't. It's fairly generic high fantasy with a heavy resemblance to Warhammer Online. Again I will say that their are flashes of brilliance in some of the characters/mobs/architecture or armor/weapon models.
 
Verdict: Like it or don't like it, too subjective really.
 
Score - 7/10 for lack of originality, however a style I personally enjoy due to the simplistic Medieval feel.
 
Story/Lore-
 
I quested enough throughout both the Defiant and Guardian style to get a better feel of the story. Reading through quest text, there is a strong narrative that drives the otherwise mundane quests. The story does flow between points logically and upon completing all the quests in the Defiant starter zone I was rewarded with some sense of completion for the story of the zone.
 
That being said, the story really finishes in the instance for the zone, the Iron Tombs. 
 
In terms of lore, Trion has done an incredible job. Nearly NPC you talk to has an option to click to hear a bit more about them, the area you are in, their story, etc. There are dozens of books and artifacts to collect that each are readable and content tidbits of story and history and lore.
 
Verdict: It may be fairly generic fantasy stuff, religion vs. science etc., but it's very well done and presented in a way that the explorer is rewarded for their efforts.
 
Score - 8/10 for generic yet extremely well done. 
 
Questing (direction, variety, etc.)-
 
Questing in Rift is very typical, standard fair MMO stuff. That being said, it is more along the lines of Wrath of the Lich King / Cataclysm questing from WoW versus Vanilla/Burning Crusade questing. 
There are a lot of quests, and they are mostly the same 4-5 types. Kill, collect, interact, travel. There is a good sense of pacing and flow. You generally go from hub to hub, not staying at a specific hub for too long, instead doing a few quests/chains then moving on to the next hub. I find this to be very good considering the zone feels extremely large, even after you get a mount so there is not too much running around.
 
The quest rewards are also very nice and frequent. That progressive sense of power-growth via items that accompanies character growth via leveling up is balanced well. 
 
*NOTE* major point here you shouldn't miss. I quested levels 1-15 entirely in a two player group with my brother. The additional XP for being in a group counters the XP split for killing mobs extremely well. Also, kills are counted for both players and more importantly, if a mob drops an item you need to collect, BOTH players can loot it off of the same mob. 
 
This is huge. Now, collecting items in the open world still required each player to find and collect their own quantity, but respawn rates were fairly high.
 
What this really means is that there is NO disadvantage to questing in a party. In fact, due to the congestion of MOBs in some questing areas, it's actually easier and more efficient to quest in a group because you have less chance of dying when you pull 3-4 mobs by accident, which happens more then you might enjoy and generally kills you unless you can self-heal or tank them all.
 
I have heard at higher levels questing becomes more challenging and pretty much requires you to either group or be able to self-heal or tank multiple mobs. The implications of this combined with what I have experienced?
 
Party play in the open world is back! If you want to solo grind quests to max level, you may have extreme difficulty unless you choose a fairly balanced spec capable of self healing, crowd control, damage reduction etc.
 
This may infuriate and drive off many more WoW-experienced gamers. It may sell to more traditional/party friendly MMO veterans. That being said, Trion gives you FOUR talent specs at a time for a reason - more later on that.
 
In the last few quest chains/quest area in the Defiant zone of Freemarch, I found the mob congestion + difficulty to be too high for my Warrior to solo effectively as a purely DPS spec. I spent too much time drinking to recover after fights, had to be extremel careful about pulling, etc. After switching my souls to a defensive tank build (primarily Reaver - DoT based defensive tank) I was able to survive much easier and take 2-3 or more mobs at a time, but killed individual mobs much slower.
 
Verdict: Very standard MMO questing, but done learning the lessons of other MMOs in terms of flow/pacing. Incredibly well-fit for grouping, with some much needed challenge.
 
Score - 8/10 for bringing nothing new to the table, but doing it as well as the other guys in a "modern" way. Bonus points for group play and increased difficulty!
 
World Design-
 
Both the Defiant and Guardian starting zones feel very large. Where as the Defiant zone is more open, more fields and plains kind of thing, the Guardian is a sacred forest setting. Again, I must point out that the starter experience, the first 7-8 levels in the tutorial area + the little valley on either side of the bridge are VERY linear and small. Almost claustrophobic. 
 
After this point though, the game world really opens up. Sticking to the roads/paths will certainly keep your travels faster and safer, but there is a LOT of terrain to explore off the beaten road. At least, it FEELS like there is a lot.
 
I think part of that is due to the relatively slow movement speed of characters. You don't seem to run as fast as other games like WoW. 
 
I did some questing and exploring in the second tier zone for the Defiant, the Stonefield, and this zone has a bit of a northern-highlands kind of mountainous/Scotland feel to it. This zone also feels extremely huge even with a mount, though in comparison to Freemarch (Defiant first tier zone) it doesn't look as big due to the mountainous terrain that is impassable and must be travelled around, not over. i.e. you can't see as far in a particular direction due to the mountains.
 
The dungeon I went in, the Iron Tombs, feels very much like a traditional crypt/dungeon. Dark, moody, atmospheric. The general layout was easy to understand and follow, and it felt very much in place in the world of Rift. 
 
That being said, like was said in the Art Style section, it's quite the generic tomb. My group didn't finish the instance (more on that later) but overall I'd say it was designed well and of a scale similar to maybe the original Wailing Cavens in WoW - so quite large and sprawling.
 
Verdict: Solid design, massive feel if not massive real-estate, variety and continuity. Still have to see high level zones to judge.
 
Score - 8/10 for a well designed world that feels more open and larger then it really is, reserving some judgment for higher level zones and dungeons.
 
Crafting-
 
I once again went the armorsmith route on my warrior to craft my own armor. It is fairly easy to keep your crafting skills up to pace with your gear needs as you level, i.e. you can make stuff you actually use. Also, I really like how if you are crafting gear simply to use up mats/try and grind out points in your profession, you can de-construct the "trash" crafted items for a chance to regain some of the material costs, thus allowing you to grind up a bit more, faster, to get to unlock more useful recipes.
 
Again, no idea what crafting is like at max level. Not much experience with any crafting outside of the armorsmith route. 
 
Verdict: So much I do not know, but what I have seen is pretty standard with some nice twists/additions.
 
Score - 7/10 for doing nothing "wrong" and some things right, with a fair dose of uncertainty. 
 
Rifts-
 
Nothing new to report. I widely stayed away from Rifts this beta as I was more focused on leveling via questing and PvP to get a more varied and wider viewpoint. I did a LOT of Rifting in Beta 5. 
Just go read my previous blog lol but I'll sum up my feelings for ya.
 
Verdict: Very solid, invasions have extremely high potential, nice deviation/break from questing, certainly adds a lot to the over-all gameplay but revolutionary? Remains to be seen.
 
Score - 8/10 for invasions and for deviation/distraction.
 
Classes/Souls-
 
Definitely have a bit more to say about this after Beta 6. Both positive and negative.
On the positive side, the system works well and each build feels different. Having so many choices per class to choose from is amazing, yet also maddening! I spent a lot of gold and time respeccing trying to find a build that was "perfect" for me... however in the end, at least for me, there was no perfect build - they all had their strengths and weaknesses. Which I put down as a positive.
 
On the negative side, balance did seem a little off this time around. In both PvE and PvP it seems that Clerics were just godly with their self-healing and defensive abilities, coupled with solid damage output it made questing and Rifts etc. so much easier. 
 
As a Warrior, I could take one mob down quick very easily, two mobs without dying but I'd generally have to spend some time recovering after. As a Tank/defensive Warrior I'd be able to take 2-3 mobs without having to recover after, but killing was quite a bit slower.
 
However on my cleric... I could take on 4-5 mobs my level or higher and just DoT them up, shield myself, heal myself, burn them down, beat them down... it made the leveling experience 10 times easier, if not necessarily as fast.
 
My brothers Rogue could burn down mobs twice as fast as I could on my Warrior, and thus could take on a few more at a time and just burn them down fast enough to not die as often. So maybe it was just that the Warrior DPS builds were extremely underpowered this round of Beta. We'll see how things are patched out for the next phase.
 
*NOTE* I think we are going to be somewhat pigeon holed into certain soul builds for leveling as a given class. You need, and I mean really need some survivability and/or healing to quest comfortably. I guess that is why Trion gives us four builds at a time, and it's remarkably cheap to purchase your first alternate build.
 
Verdict: Still a great system, so many choices and the ability to store four builds at a time is great, but the balance did feel off this cycle and COULD be indicative of things to come... which worries me.
 
Score - 7/10 for some extreme balance issues within an incredibly good system. 
 
Dungeons-
 
I only played the one dungeon, Iron Tombs, and only twice and didn't get far at all the first time, and only two bosses down the second time. 
 
Why? It was hard. 
 
The first time the Cleric tank (Justicar) just wasn't cutting it. No threat output, no situational awareness, was a nightmare right from the start. I was ranged DPS on my Cleric (Inquisitor/Cabalist.)
The second run, I tried tanking on my Cleric as Justicar. Extremely difficult. Threat generation seemed really bad and even being a few levels higher then the "starting" level of the dungeon and being decently geared, I was just taking stupid amounts of damage the healer could not keep up with.
 
Maybe it was partially the healer, but my general assumption/deduction was that the Cleric is NOT meant to be a main tank, more of a back-up tank/healer combo or off-tank type. This could change at higher levels, but sub-20 I just didn't feel like the class could hack it. I was running low on mana nearly every pull trying to maintain threat.
 
This is coming from someone who has tanked everything in WoW for 6+ years. 
 
There are nice additions here, instead of marking the targets with symbols the group leader can put numbers over the mobs heads - 1,2,3 etc. which made coordination on the fly much easier. Telling people "focus on number one first then move on to two" was simply easier then some skull/x/square kind of order.
 
I think even these low level dungeons (15+ for Iron Tombs) are going to require at least one dedicated main tank (warrior) and main healer (cleric) to have a smooth run unless you grossly out level them.
By dedicated I mean all 3 souls defensive tank souls for the MT, 3 healing souls for the main-healer etc.
That being said, the other three group members can add a LOT to the party's chance of success by off-healing, crowd control, debuffs/buffs etc. Having a rogue who had a Bard third spec was extremely useful for buffing and off-healing.
 
So in that sense, this dungeon really reminded me of a classic WoW dungeon, but a level 50-60 dungeon in the amount of coordination and dedication to one's role that was required. 
 
The boss mechanics I saw were interesting. The first boss was a straight up tank and spank with periods of higher damage output, this made having a Bard off-heal extremely useful. The second boss had two phases, there were actually three mobs you'd first kill one at a time, a healer, a tank/melee dps, and a caster dps. After they all died once they all rezzed and you had to take all three at once.
Extremely challenging for our group. We ended up having the Rogue switch to his full healing Bard spec so we had two healers, and had the other Rogue with Ranger use his pet to off-tank one of them while we burned the rest down.
 
Some may hate this, but I am very intrigued. I guess only having one dungeon per 10 level range (at least during level up) they made the dungeons long, sprawling, "epic," and challenging.
 
Verdict: Newer MMO players may absolutely hate them, but fans of older EQ/vanilla WoW style dungeons have a lot to look forward to. You will need to multi-task and bring more to the table then high dps to be successful.
 
Score- 8/10 for high hopes and solid party based game play with a decent challenge. 
 
PvP-
 
I did a fair amount of PvP on both my cleric (17-18) and Warrior (ended up at 20). I'll talk first about world PvP... I didn't see any on Lotham.
 
The zones are divided in such a way that the first two zones for each side (probably till about level 30ish) are completely separate from the other side, yet the 2nd teir zone (19+) on a PvP server auto-flagged you for being a contested zone.
 
I believe the third tier zone (and possibly every zone after) is contested as well as contains content for both sides and thus world PvP is MUCH more frequent (on PvP server or if flagged) and I believe this is where they really start with the open-world PvP objectives to capture/control.
I just don't know. Next phase I'll have to try and get a toon up to that level range and into the third tier zone.
 
In terms of instanced PvP, the Warfronts... if you played Warhammer Online skirmishes, you know what to expect. An Arathi Basin style capture/control points around the map that opens up in the 20-30 range. A "hold the briefcase" that opens up in the 10-19 range...
 
Mechanics felt solid, not at all glitchy and felt very fluid like WoW battlegrounds versus the mess that was WAR PvP. 
 
*NOTE* Balance and strategy though.. really hard to say. I ran a couple of Warfronts with my brother (Cleric) as a pocket-healer for me (Warrior) and I pretty much dominated. Still felt like I was killing pretty slow though.
 
If they enemy has a healer, you've got to focus fire and take them out. They can easily heal through 1-2 players damage output. It's bad. Real bad. Generally you'd have 3-4 players focused on killing a Healer which made the Healer stick to only healing themselves, which left the rest of your team capable of focusing down the other enemy players. If they had multiple healers cross-healing themselves and each other... good luck. No way to beat that.
 
Having a raid leader who marked focused targets (1,2,3 etc.) made thing 10000000x times easier and vastly improved chances of winning the match.
 
One on one, if you are fighting a healer you have to out-last them, which is hard to do. You have to out-last their mana pool, I found it impossible as a Warrior or Cleric (ranged dps) to out-burst their healing potential.
 
In non-healer vs. non-healers 1vs1 fights I found things to be quite balanced. By the upper teens it's easy to have snares/roots in your arsenal as both melee and ranged as well as some counters like fears/dispells.
 
The healing is a major, major problem. It's way too powerful in PvP.
 
That being said, healing felt extremely UNDERpowered in PvE dungeons... as we have seen in WoW over the years, it's an extremely difficult balancing act to get right.
 
Verdict: Ran smoothly and well, didn't see any world PvP but know it is there, balance is quite a mess with healers absolutely dominating this cycle. We'll have to see what changes Trion makes.
 
Score- 5/10 for being playable and fun but it's 100% about team composition and coordination (i.e. healing) right now.
 
Community-
 
It's beta right now, it's free to play and just about anyone who wants a key can get one quite easily. So in my opinion you have to take community with a grain of salt, it will not reflect the community at launch.
 
That being said... this beta phase it was like going back in time to WoW Barrens chat. It was awful. Real, real awful.
 
Generally players you ran into in the world were nice, helpful.. they wouldn't ninja your quest objectives (obviously some @$$holes out there would) and if you pulled too many by accident many times another player would jump in and help you out.
 
I found it completely and 100% necessary this beta to customize my chat settings, to make a new window that only gave me system/server/game world messages as well as party/raid/PMs.
The chat was just.. unbearable.
 
HOPEFULLY when the game is released all the complete and total MORONS who apparently spent their entire play time trolling the chat channels talking about WoW and how much this, that, or the other thing sucked will be no where to be found.
 
But, like on these very forums at MMORPG.com, the idiots usually have the loudest voice and are most plentiful. 
 
Verdict: Please, dear God and baby Jesus, don't let these whiney, self centered, cry-baby trolls even touch a keyboard ever again.. or my ignore list is going to be huge!
 
Score: 2/10 for the "magic" of mostly-open-beta free-loader chat channels.
 
*FINAL VERDICT*
 
Rift is a good game. There are some issues that still need to be worked out before launch. Hopefully players were smart enough to actually provide in game feedback or feedback on the beta forums instead of just bitching on MMORPG.com forums or their own whiney blogs. I did both :)
 
I do have a sneaking suspicion that this game will grow tired and old for those who do not embrace the social experience of the MMO genre via guilds, partying to level, dungeons, Rift groups that actually talk to each other and communicate etc.
 
I think Trion is really pushing for a return of the really social aspect of MMO gaming. They are making it completely possible to solo to the top but I don't think it's going to be an enjoyable experience for those who do when compared to a game like WoW where it's easier, faster, and with the use of their Phasing tech tells a better story.
 
For the group play, guild friendly, social/communicative types I think Rift is going to be a wonderful experience for.
 
So in that sense, Rift really is a bit more "old school" and kind of a return to some of the basics, while presenting them in a modern/current way.
 
I should also note that the level of polish and professionalism displayed by Trion both in and out of game is top notch. If anything, having faith in them as a developer gives this game a lot of hope and the potential to live up to its promises, which is something that many of us who were jaded by some of the more recent releases should be happy about.
 
META-SCORE: 7

Out of retirement - in defense of a good game (Rift)

Posted by BadSpock Thursday February 3 2011 at 10:07AM
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I've brought my very old and formerly in good standing MMORPG.com account out of retirement to offer a defense, no, to offer a viewpoint on the upcoming MMO Rift: Planes of Telara.

To say "defense" would imply that I have somehow been effected by the assault against this game that is present on these forums.

To be honest, the arguments I have read on this site against rift have been primarily narrow minded and juvenile, while the arguments in defense of Rift have (except for the occasional fanboi post) been much more logical and rational.

So my piece to follow will try and highlight the pros and cons, and really analyze and predict what players can expect when logging into the world of Telara on a daily basis, not just what I think nor what I feel about said systems.

I should preface my piece by saying that I have been playing MMORPG's since UO around '99, pre-Trammel. Since then I have played nearly every major title for some period of time, though primarily I spent time in UO, E&B, SWG, and WoW. Brief stints with EQ2, LOTRO, EvE, WAR, TR, and FFXI.

*Warning* This will be a long post - read at your own risk! - you can skip around to the colored sections for summaries if you want to skim.

Graphics:

My computer sucks. It is nearly 5 years old and it's only saving grace is a fairly decent (yet still cheap) Nvidia 430GT graphics card. That being said, I was easily able to maintain very smooth and playable FPS during the Beta 5 event on Medium settings unless I was participating in a very large Rift/Invasion, where I'd generally have to lower my settings to maintain proper performance due to so much more activity on the screen to be rendered.

I also spent some time playing on my brother's fancy new gaming laptop at High and Ultra settings. It's the laptop that was designed to look like a stealth fighter.

Verdict- This game/engine is designed well in that it scales very greatly between sub-par systems such as mine and powerful systems to deliver extremely high quality visuals. The lighting and shadows in particular on Ultra and High settings were extremely impressive for a MMO. I noticed zero texture loading delays/issues even at extreme view distances. 

Anyone with a computer that meets the minimum requirements for Rift will be able to have an enjoyable visual experience. It's no Age of Conan but it runs infinitely better and is universally more scalable. The "Low Quality Renders" option makes the game look 5+ years old, but you could probably run it smoothly on a Word processor laptop with built-in graphics.

9/10 for extreme scalability

Network: 

During the Beta 5 event the server was taken down at least twice for patching and was brought back up within 30 minutes. The very first night, before Trion opened up additional servers and the original offerings were all full or nearly at capacity during prime-time hours, I was randomly disconnected a couple of times - always able to reconnect nearly instantly, but an annoyance none the less.

Once additional servers were brought up and balance was adjusted/distributed across them, this was no longer an issue. 

During certain events such as large Rift and/or invasions, I would routinely be involved in groups of 20 to 100 players occupying the same zone/section of said zone. When I began to notice frame rate slips and stutters, I lowered my graphics settings and things smoothed out wonderfully.

I experienced a mob rubber-banding or my toon rubber-banding only a couple of times, and it was right before a server restart and patch and then never again after.

Verdict - Extremely impressed. Had to be one of, if not the smoothest Beta I have ever been a part of from a network standpoint. The fact I was able to maintain quality FPS during large scale events by lowing my graphic quality proved to me that any/all performance issues where on my hardware's end, not Trion's network.

10/10 for near flawless execution. 

Art Style:

This game looks exactly like Warhammer Online with better player models. I think some of the textures for the Death Rifts were taken directly from the texture files of the Chaos. 

Personally, I think it looks very nice - even if not at all original. 

The armor models are very good though. Even early on in the game, the armor you get via questing, through Rifts, or crafting looks and feels very basic and generic Medieval, but it works. Perhaps I'm just so very tired of the overly-large and shiny models from WoW that I appreciate some simplicity now.

Higher-end models as seen in screenshots and on NPCs in cities look promising - promising to not have gigantic over-sized glowing shoulder pads. Win.

The mounts in this game are quite unique from an art direction standpoint. Undead looking gazelle beast things and twin-fox tailed lions with horns? Yes please. 

I do have to note that the Rifts altering the landscape around them when they open is a fantastic touch.

I also have to note I never played out of the early zones - newbie tutorial, starter area, and 10-20 including capital city and only 10-20 on the Defiant side. 

From what I have seen there are some very interesting and "moody" looking zones at later levels. That being said, I really enjoyed the simplicity of Freemarch. Sandy beaches, limited forests, wide open plains... it was a breathe of fresh air to explore in a zone that felt like it would actually exist in a fantasy environment i.e. it wasn't too over the top.

Verdict - I still need to see more before I can truthfully judge. 

6/10 for lack of originality, yet some very strong points

World Design:

So how did the flow, the pace, the spacing, and the placement "feel?" 

For the newbie tutorial (first 6 or so levels) in addition to the little valley you first begin your adventures in the "real" world in (probably up to level 10 or so) the design felt very, very, and I mean VERY linear and forced.

No room for deviation, not much room for exploration, a very controlled space with hard walls and physical barriers to keep you contained. 

But then you leave that tiny little valley... and a whole world opens up to you. Quite a "night and day" difference. Suddenly you find yourself in an expansive, open environment with many small little hubs, expansive fields, tons of room for exploration, and a real sense of grandeur. 

Freemarch was massive, getting a mount at level 20 will surely help out a lot. I never felt like I was running forever (aka oh God I'm back in the Barrens!) but definitely a hike.

Verdict - I'm interested to see how the other zones, especially mid and high level zones play out.

8/10 for generic and maybe TOO newbie friendly starter areas, impressive and expansive world I can actually feel OK calling a world, and for well designed quest hubs I have no pressure to pay attention to.

Story and questing:

Hard to say to be honest. I didn't read too many quests because I don't want to spoil any story come release. That being said, the general story/lore of the two factions is varied and interesting, the battle between blind faith and blind reliance on technology. 

I did play and read enough on both sides to appreciate how well that dichotomy is played out on either side. One quest via Guardians would say something like "We were trying to get across the bridge to save Bunnies from heretics when the vile Defiants blew it up" and on the Defiant side they'd say "We had to blow up the bridge to prevent the Witch-Hunting fanatics of the Guardians from coming and burning our books."

Very interesting, yet I feel in NO way qualified to comment further on the story.

As for the questing itself, it's pretty standard fair MMO stuff. Go here, kill this, bring me back this, etc.

Quest hubs would offer a couple of quests, maybe a small chain, always near the hub, and then send you to another hub. Very much influenced by the WoW-Cataclysm quest design rather then the Vanilla WoW "run back and forth till you pass out of boredom" questing model.

To be honest though I never felt pressured to quest. There are enough other things to do to help level up and enjoy your play time, unless the quest had a really good reward that was better then something I could craft, I generally skipped many of them.

Verdict- Pretty standard stuff here, but some interesting story/lore. Will have to really wait and see.

7/10 for generic MMO questing, some interesting and well done story elements, but props for not forcing it down our throats if we choose to pass.

Combat:

Now into the real meat and potatoes. 

First off, yes, in Rift you will have to kill things. A lot of things. I imagine it would be quite impossible to avoid killing stuff to advance in this game. No 100% crafters or non-violent options really. 

That being said, the combat feels very much like WoW, but a little slower and more deliberate.

I'd say the pace of combat in Rift is somewhere between the button mashing bunny hopping face roll of WoW and the slower, more tactical EQ2 and/or LOTRO.

I was bored to tears of combat in EQ2 and LOTRO, and can happily say that I think Trion got the pace just right, right in the "sweet spot" between that and the ADD Mountain Dew hyped combat of WoW.

The combat does "feel" very responsive and polished. I remember in WAR there was a noticeable delay between hitting a button and bad things actually happening to your opponent, which drove me absolutely batty. Rift does again feel like WoW in the aspect that it does feel fluid and responsive, which is a good thing.

Resource management seems to play a large role. The Rogue archetype has combo points, which some complain about "stealing from WoW" but honestly it works well even for the ranged Rogue souls.

The Mage types build up Focus I think it's called? Something to be spent on more powerful attacks etc. while the Warriors have a system very similar to the WoW Retribution Paladins. Attacks build up a maximum of three stacks of Attack Points which can then be used for more powerful attacks and buffs/debuffs.

I will admit my knowledge of those three Archetypes is limited, as the game/souls/archetypes really don't "open up" till after level 10 or so, just like the world design. The only character I leveled up higher then that was a Cleric.

Clerics use mana and resource management doesn't seem to be an issue at all UNLESS you are healing, then mana becomes a balancing act or Regen vs. healing Throughput. As a DPS caster/melee DPS/tank the Cleric had very little need to manage their mana. Depending on what Soul you chose, like the Cabalist you've have other types of resource management.

Cabalist could channel a DoT spell that built up stacks (up to 3) you could then detonate for either massive single target damage or an AoE field of DoT damage. It really reminded me of a cross between a WoW Shadow Priest and Warlock, mixed in with a healthy dose of Shockadin/Discipline priest.

However, there are some gripes and/or concerns. 

I found tab targeting to be a little off. I think generally when I'd tab-target I'd want it to cycle between enemies in my line of site directly in front of my character, but instead it seemed to do it's targeting cycle in an arc in front of my character, which often times left me to only be able to use the mouse and click on a specific mob to target it - which during fast paced Rifts or Invasions was a problem. 

By level 10 or so you generally have a fair number of abilities already from your 3 chosen souls, and some are duplicates or simply not as powerful as their counterpart unless talented. I guess this is not a bad thing per say, but it does feel wasted unlocking cloned abilities you will never likely use in combat.

Verdict - A lot of potential, some kinks to work out, a good feel, yet nothing really new (which I don't think is really a bad thing i.e. it's comfortable.)

7/10 for doing things primarily right and good.

Leveling/Class/Skill/Soul system:

The one topic people have generally across the board been very favorable towards, and I am no different.

I love the Soul system in Rifts. 

Each soul has a type, they can be either Offensive, Support, Healing, or Defensive. 

I believe the Warrior archetype has primarily Offensive and Defensive souls, the Mage type has Offensive, Support, and Healing souls, the Rogue type Offensive, Defensive, and a Support soul, while the Cleric has Offensive, Healing, and Defensive. 

There are the very "obvious" builds, the all out DPS choosing 3 offensive souls, the all out healer two healing + a defensive, the main Tank primarily Defensive etc.

The game even gives you recommendations as to which souls pair well together, and it is tempting to listen to their recommendations...

But go off the beaten path, create your own Soul combinations, and prepare for the most joyous of joys!

Want to be a stealthy assassin who also uses explosives and can tank? Go ahead. How about a melee heavy DPS Cleric who can summon companions and heal? Sure. 

It all comes down to how you spend your points in a tree.

Splitting your points somewhat evenly across your three Souls makes for a very well balanced build I've found to be unmatched for solo play, questing, and minor/group based invasions.

Specializing in a specific soul as a primary and use the other two as support seems highly favorable for group play via dungeons or the larger, raid level Rift and Invasion events.

It is a versatile, extremely customizable and well done system. In terms of balance, it's really hard to say at level sub-20, but no matter what combination of Souls I chose I felt very effective and powerful. 

Balance is going to be the hard part. With this many options, some are going to be overpowered and some underpowered. Be prepared for a WoW like constant balancing act of buffs/nerfs via patches. I honestly don't know what MMO is really all too different, but it will not be perfect.

Also I'd highly expect players to be rail-roaded into min/max specs for a given role for high level group and raid content. Honestly, that's to be expected.

But the GREAT thing is you get 4 builds you can save and switch between freely and you can unlock and use all 8 souls for a given Archetype to make your builds. So with one character, you can literally play the equivalent of multiple classes and multiple roles from other MMOs. 

So you may have a solo-friendly "balanced" build for questing, some light Rift hopping and PvP, a role-tailored build for dungeons, raiding, and major Rift/invasion play, a full on PvP build, and still have another slot to play a completely different role.

Verdict- Extremely impressive and well done/thought out - well it be balanced? Probably never. But with 4 soul builds to save and 8 souls available on a single character, the possibilities and pros outweigh the cons significantly. 

9/10 for truly innovative and unique design, yet a handicap for constant balance issues.

Rifts:

Another of the heavy hitters. The game is named after them and they are certainly a major selling point for the game.

There is a lot of information on Rifts out there, so instead of describing I'll try and instead give my viewpoints and feelings on my experiences with Rifts.

Your basic Rift forming and playing through is fairly straight forward and basic. Very similar to WAR's public quests, including the great Public Grouping features. Though the number of Rifts that spawn are dependent on the player population in a zone, and the difficulty of a Rift is suppose to scale with the number of players participating, I found that they do not scale up enough.

In the heavily populated starter zones of the Beta, the minor Rifts would come and go far too quickly.  You'd barely have time to switch targets and cast a few spells/get a few hits in before the mobs would die. Randomly joining up in a public group to complete a Rift, blaze through it quickly, and then leave the group to continue questing etc. was a bit disappointing.

I can very easily see this becoming a rep/gear grind rather quickly rather then a fundamental game system.

That being said, Major Rifts and invasions are a whole different story. Playing with a small to medium sized group/raid and hopping from Rift to Rift was a lot of fun. Major Rift invasion could easily wipe a raid and were a very intuitive blend of chaos and coordination. Combined with boss encounters, the territorial control mechanics of defending outposts and cities while also going on the offensive to shut down Footholds was a very unique and Dynamic game play element unlike any I've experienced in a MMO. 

Also, when fortunate enough to be part of a small group tackling a major Rift was quite challenging, requiring the fundamental basics of group dynamics and party play. As you level up the Rifts would start popping out Elite mobs and provide a real challenge and epic sense of danger and completion when finally able to overcome the enemies and close the Rift. Many phases of the Rift being on timers really gave a sense of urgency and importance to these major events.

Verdict - Scaling needs to be ramped up a notch or two to lengthen the encounter and really present a level of danger requiring coordination and cooperation vs. whack-a-mole zerging. Invasions and major Rift events are priceless and extremely well done. 

9/10 for some tweaking/balancing to be done on top of an incredibly fun and interesting mechanic that really does bring something new to the MMO genre. 

Crafting:

Not much to say here. It's good, it's fairly standard, combined with adding desired stats onto items and dying of armors, better then WoW but no where near as complete a crafting system as other MMO titles. 

I did really enjoy that all crafting professions I tried allowed you to deconstruct items you find/loot/make in order to get some material resources back. I also noticed in the capital daily quests for resources that unlocked new recipes. 

Verdict - Not quite sure how deep the rabbit hole goes, but on the surface both functional and useful, yet not a major game element as I've seen it.

7/10 for uncertainty as to what high-level brings.

PvP:

I never PvP'd during Beta 5, but plan on making it a primary focus during Beta 6. 

That being said, I think many of the open-world dynamics of objective control, invasions, etc. coupled with the potential for open-world PvP and especially on PvP servers could allow for a LOT of great potential for Rift to be free from the grinding based instanced PvP that ruined WAR and ruined WoW. 

Verdict - We'll wait and see. Again balance could be a problem.

6/10 for hope.

Community:

Chat channels were terrible, so many WoW references and griping, much like your typical fourm... however I did find players to be generally helpful with questions, and there will be a LOT of debate and discussion over the details and finer points of the Soul system, which always leads to stronger community. 

Verdict - your mileage will vary, but in general Trion is trying to make it easy to socialize and play well with others. Let's hope it works.

7/10 for Barrens chat, generally helpful and fostering a good discussion mixed with many social opportunities.

Dungeons/Raids:

No idea. Never did any. I'm not sure anyone has done raids yet, but plenty of videos up on dungeons. Look to be fairly standard role based party structure, however reports of difficulty seem to be closer to Vanilla WoW/BC standards versus Wrath standards, i.e. likely not face roll and providing some challenge.

Verdict - I have high hopes, and I believe my high hopes are justified. 

7/10 for hope and very positive feedback.

 

THE FINAL VERDICT

If you have read this long I applaud you.

I think Rift does a lot of things right. It's familiar, it's comfortable, and it's pretty standardized. Many would say this makes in a WoW clone or EQ clone etc., but I am rather of the opinion that it is smart game design to take what works, refine it, add your own flavorings, bake to perfection, and enjoy without guilt. 

If you dislike WoW or EQ etc. and are more of a EvE/Darkfall etc. fan, this game probably isn't for you.

That being said, the Soul system is amazing and fresh, and the Rifts and Invasion are unique and interesting in with a few tweaks here and there could really be a major evolutionary step forward for the genre. 

The level of polish and professionalism I have experienced playing Rift and researching Trion, listening to their development diaries etc. tells me that these guys and gals really do know what they are doing. 

It may not be the game for you, but over all it is a very well done game and I'd strongly recommend it to any fan of the genre. 

There are still two Beta events left (I think only two) so we'll see if my opinion changes after spending a lot more time with this baby, but all signs point to that I will continue to solidify my opinion as I play that this is a good game, plain and simple.

Thanks for reading.

Forced Solo content? Please, these are MMORPGs

Posted by BadSpock Monday July 13 2009 at 1:15PM
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I see this kind of talk on these boards a lot about group versus solo content and how "solo games are killing grouping and community." 

Here are some good quotes-

"... good grouping games. Just enough downtime to let you discuss what to do next, chat, etc., while you regained hit points, mana, lost rez sickness, and could start fighting again.

Newer games lke CoH, have no downtime. It's fight, fight, fight, kill boss mob, done, kthxbye.

I like something with a bit slower pace." - Ihmotepp


"Yeah, and that's something that some people don't seem to get. Just because a game has some grouping it doesn't neccesarily mean that it's the type of grouping experience that will satisfy a group oriented player
.

I haven't played CoH but I played Guild Wars some and even though you can group with other players for some of the missions it's not a very enjoyable experience for the most part. It's generally just--RUN RUN RUN, KILL KILL KILL, done, the instance ends and hardly a word was exchanged between the members of the group. And in most cases there was hardly any sort of cooperative effort required so it felt more like soloing near other people than like grouping.

At this point in time, for me, the lack of good, friendly grouping is killing this genre more than anything else (for me I said). I may talk about the <Dream Game> from time to time. I may talk about sandboxy stuff. I may talk about improved AI. But putting aside dreams for the future, the thing that is making games RIGHT NOW completely unattractive to me is the lack of good grouping."

It's really depressing for me. I'm not trying to convert anyone because that can't be done. I'm just saying how it is for me."  - Neanderthal


"Amen brother. It's not about trying to make every game the same because you like it that way, it's about trying to find a game that you (we) like. All I want is a few group oriented games to choose from and ill be happy (one good one would be nice). All the other ones I could care less about and they can be as solo friendly as they want. To each his own." - whatamidoing
 

 

See this is what really get's me about guys like you... you wax so poetically about this and that but you do NOT understand, or even try to conceive that your issue is a 100% play style choice.

You could very easily, in a game such as World of Warcraft. Team up with a few friends, only play together through questing and running instanced dungeons to level your toons. You could vary your crafting professions to compliment each other and form your own little exchange economy.

If you find a group of like-minded players you could take your time and enjoy the journey while leveling 100% grouped up the entire time, helping each other in your defined group roles. Sure, lots/most of the quests would be quite simple if you approached them in a group 100% of the time, but in the end these are GAMES and they are designed for you, the player, to win.

It's like the PvP people who simply don't understand that in a truly "balanced" game you'd lose 50% of the time.

The only person who is "making" you rush to solo to the top as fast as possible is you. You are the power-gamer achiever type who can't slow down and smell the roses and make it a game about team-work and group fun. You can slow down the pulls in the dungeon and talk things over, either through a ventrillo or teamspeak or in the game. Hell use typing in the game instead of a chat client so it forces you to slow down and type a bit.

I could do EXACTLY what both you guys are describing in a game like World of Warcraft if I had a few friends that thought and felt the same way.

It's a choice. Sure you CAN solo-grind quests up to level 80 and skip all the group content. But it's a choice.

Don't you see that? There is NO such thing as FORCED SOLOing in a MMORPG. It doesn't exist.

There is no content in MMO I have ever played that doesn't let you group up with others if you want to.

"But it's not as efficient, I could do it much faster playing solo" well right there THAT is a choice YOU make to try and speed through the game and min/max power level.

Don't you see?

Yes, they have made solo play viable in modern MMOs but they have done nothing to discourage group play. It is YOU that is discouraging group play through your achiever, goal oriented, min/maxer hardcore power leveler mindset.

Don't you see?
 

How hard is it to offer different server types?

Posted by BadSpock Friday July 10 2009 at 2:13PM
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There are lots of posts on MMO forums about a game's features. Interestingly enough, to many the inclusion or exclusion of a single feature can be what they call a "deal breaker" or reason enough for that person to not want to play the game.

In essence if the player found 9/10 features appealing but that final 10th feature was so unbearable to them as to be a deal breaker, they wouldn't play.

Does anyone else see this as alienating a vast number of potential players? 

One of the biggest deal breakers I have seen posters mention is PvP.

It's either full FFA or it's a deal breaker. It's either consensual or a deal breaker. Full loot or a deal breaker.

So I ask the very obvious question:

Why not server types?

MMOs as far back as Ultima Online have offered choices. When they added Trammel, the PvP-free mirror of the world they also created the Siege Perilous shard, which had NO Trammel facet as well as additional "hardcore" features such as restrictions on the number of skill ups per time period and even offered "Red" healers to bring PK's back to life.

Look no further then the king of modern MMOs, World of Warcraft, and you see PvP servers versus normal servers, and also the role play equivalents.

One of the biggest games coming up soon in terms of hype and peak interest and especially forum activity is Aion.

This game is sold as a "PvPvE" game with elements of PvE and PvP mixed together to form the "end-game" of raids and RvR style conquest.

To many, the forced PvP the game system allows is a deal breaker. They want to peacefully level from 1 to 50 without engaging in PvP other then when they want to, and they want to participate in the large PvE raids and dungeon content without being forced to PvP the opposing faction.

You know what? 

Offer an alternative server rule set. The PvPvE system as the "normal" or intended way to play the game, and servers where all PvP is 100% consensual through a flagging system.

Let players decide what they want to do. I garauntee you that you will see plenty of interest in both.

Again, look at World of Warcraft server selection. Fairly even split between PvP and PvE servers (at least in NA) and both kinds of realms are very popular.

Why alienate a potentially huge segment of the population that would potentially play your game with a feature considered by many to be such a deal breaker? 

This isn't just true of Aion or World of Warcraft.

I ask, is it that hard to offer different server types? 

Obviously, there are some technical or systematic considerations to make. For instance in Lord of the Rings Online you really couldn't have open PvP because the entire focus of the Lord of the Rings intellectual property is good versus evil, the fellowship versus the evil of One Ring, the free peoples of Middle Earth versus Sauron and his forces. etc.

You couldn't have FFA PvP in WoW or WAR or Aion because they are games built upon the idea of factions that are at war. But also there are systematic considerations in terms of content. You can't make Orcs and Undead at war with each other because you'd be cutting off a large portion of PvE content to either side by doing so, etc.

So what do you think? 

If you could offer multiple server types to appeal to different kinds of players, and thus greatly increase your target audience and the draw of your game to these different demographics, wouldn't you?